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Supreme Court Clarifies Test for Fee-Shifting in Copyright Cases

The Supreme Court on June 16 issued a unanimous ruling clarifying the test for awarding attorneys’ fees to successful copyright litigants.  The decision, in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is sure to have lasting impact on how both plaintiffs and defendants weigh the risk of litigating a copyright case to completion. BACKGROUND The … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Clarifies Test for Fee-Shifting in Copyright Cases

The Supreme Court on June 16 issued a unanimous ruling clarifying the test for awarding attorneys’ fees to successful copyright litigants.  The decision, in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is sure to have lasting impact on how both plaintiffs and defendants weigh the risk of litigating a copyright case to completion. BACKGROUND The … Continue Reading

Is Paramount Going Where No Copyright Holder Has Gone Before?

Hollywood is often referred to as the land of make-believe. A federal lawsuit working its way through a Los Angeles federal court may decide the extent to which what Hollywood “dreams up” for its motion pictures and television shows is entitled to copyright protection. The case is Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Axanar Productions Inc., et … Continue Reading

How Will the Supreme Court Function With the Varsity Brands Test?

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it had agreed to review the Sixth Circuit’s copyright decision in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, which involves the issue of whether certain designs appearing on cheerleading uniforms are copyrightable or are instead non-copyrightable functional elements that are an inherent part of cheerleading uniform designs. In a split decision, … Continue Reading

Central District of California Holds That the California Resale Royalty Act Is Preempted by Federal Copyright Law

As previously discussed on this blog, the validity of the California Resale Royalty Act (the “RRA,” Civil Code Section 986), a 1976 law that requires resellers of fine art to pay a royalty of 5 percent to the artists behind the works, was challenged in a dispute between a group of artists and Christie’s Inc., … Continue Reading

“And if You Listen Very Hard” . . . Zeppelin Going to [Trial in] California

Central District of California Judge Gary Klausner ruled the founders of rock band Led Zeppelin – and more particularly, front men Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – must face a jury trial to determine whether the band’s most famous song, “Stairway to Heaven,” infringed a copyright belonging to the band Spirit. In 2014, the trustee … Continue Reading

Federal Circuit Denies Rehearing on Whether Section 337 Includes Digital Imports

The Federal Circuit debate begun in Suprema, Inc. v. International Trade Commission, 796 F.3d 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2015) (en banc), continued with the court’s denial of rehearing en banc in ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. International Trade Commission, No. 2014-1527(Fed. Cir. Mar. 31, 2016) (Prost, C.J., concurring, and Newman, J., dissenting). In Suprema, the en banc … Continue Reading

Paul McCartney Refuses to Let It Be and Launches Effort to Reclaim Copyrights to Songs

Legendary songwriter Paul McCartney has begun the process of acquiring the rights to songs he co-wrote with John Lennon while both were members of the Beatles. Although McCartney and Lennon authored most of the band’s hits, they signed over their copyrights at the start of their career on the advice of manager Brian Epstein. By … Continue Reading

Where’s the Beef?: Locating the Situs of Injury for Jurisdictional Purposes in Cross-Border Copyright Infringement Cases

In spring 2015, plaintiffs Pablo Star Ltd. and Pablo Star Media Ltd., each a company organized under the laws of Ireland and the United Kingdom, sued the Welsh government and various content-providing companies for copyright infringement. At issue were two photographs of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, allegedly improperly used by the Welsh government as part … Continue Reading

The Beastie Boys Fight for Their Rights and Win

On Wednesday Judge Alison J. Nathan of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York ordered record label TufAmerica, Inc. to pay the Beastie Boys (Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, and Adam Yauch), Universal-Polygram International Publishing, Inc. and Capital Records LLC, $845,597.23 in attorneys’ fees and costs. TufAmerica brought suit in 2012 against … Continue Reading

Singers Chris Brown and The Weeknd Resolve Copyright Disputes

Last year, songwriter Nayeri Gregor filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Chris Brown, Benny Benassi, and others, claiming Brown’s 2012 song Don’t Wake Me Up infringed her 2009 song of the same title. According to Gregor, in 2011 she played her song for Irish singer-songwriter Brian Kennedy. Gregor further claimed that Kennedy memorized the music … Continue Reading

Return to Sender: Elvis Presley Enterprises All Shook Up Over Rejected Discovery in German Royalty Dispute

The Southern District of New York recently denied an application brought by Elvis Presley Enterprises LLC  (“EPE”) for an order to take discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, a provision of the United States Code that allows for discovery in aid of foreign litigation. See In re Elvis Presley Enters. LLC, No. 15mc386 (DLC) … Continue Reading

Can Software Be Created As a Work-for-Hire?

In early February a decision out of the Southern District of New York added another layer of dicta supporting the notion that software created by an independent contractor can qualify as a work-for-hire. In Stanacard, LLC v. Rubard, LLC, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15721 (S.D.N.Y. February 3, 2016), the court found in dicta that work … Continue Reading

Copyright Content & Platforms – This Week’s Odds & Ends

Fear the Walking Dead. Popularity and piracy go hand in hand. The most tormented television shows are Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. In many instances, episodes of those shows are available for illegal download before they air. This week, AMC took action by rolling out a new watermarking technology, which will not directly … Continue Reading

Russia’s Primary Social Network in Hot Water Again Over Failure to Police Infringement

Russia’s Facebook, vKontakte, is under fire for its allegedly poor handling of pervasive copyright infringement on its platform (literally translated from Russian, “v kontakte” means “in contact”). The Association for the Protection of Copyright on the Internet, or AZAPO, has sued vKontakte in Moscow City Court on behalf of author Zahar Prilepin for his book “Resident.” … Continue Reading

Timberlake & Will.I.Am Sued by Disco Artist’s Estate

In a new case that is sure to draw comparisons to the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, Justin Timberlake and Will.I.Am have been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit from the estate of a disco artist. The suit alleges that key portions of their pop hit “Damn Girl” were taken from the relatively obscure 1969 jazz song … Continue Reading

9/11 Photo Fair Use Case, North Jersey Media Group v. Fox News, Settles on First Day of Trial

Fox News and North Jersey Media Group have announced they have settled their copyright dispute over the use of the iconic photo taken in the aftermath of 9/11, “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero,” that was posted on Facebook by Fox News. And so it appears we will not get the jury’s guidance on the … Continue Reading

Copyright, Content, and Platforms – This Week’s Odds and Ends

Copyright Office May Get $15 Million Budget Increase for 2017 The increase—about twenty-five percent over this year’s budget—could help towards the Copyright Office’s goal of making registration and other transactions simple, transparent, and technologically savvy, as laid out by the 5-year plan released by Maria Pallante, United States Register of Copyrights. It will also help … Continue Reading

1 in 5,000: How John Doe Defeated Porn Producer Malibu Media

Litigation-friendly pornography producer Malibu Media has suffered a rare loss, which may spell trouble as it proceeds with more cases. According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Malibu Media has filed 5,207 copyright lawsuits in the past four years, only two of which have reached judgment. Malibu Media typically brings its cases as “John Doe” … Continue Reading

Author’s Family Gets an Early Christmas Gift and Wins Back Rights to Song

Back in October, the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s ruling that the heirs of John Frederick Coots, the author of the song “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” could not terminate the copyright assignment currently held by music publisher EMI.  (Baldwin v. EMI Feist Catalog, Inc.)  In doing so, it held that EMI’s copyright … Continue Reading
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